Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Snake and Duck

I wrote this blog a few months ago but somehow never published it here until a chance conversation today helped me recall this gem of a story.
This is how it goes:

There are many variations of this ancient parable. The moral of the story though, always stays the same. Come closer, make yourselves comfortable and take a seat; I would like to share this story with you.
Once upon a time Snake wanted to travel to the opposite side of a great river. He was however unable to swim so he asked Duck to carry him on his back across the river.

Oh no, said Duck. Bad idea. You are a snake and you bite and kill your prey. If I carry you on my back I will be killed.

Oh No! Said Snake in return. Yes it is true, I am a venomous snake but what would I achieve by biting you? If I bite you, none of us will get to the other side of the river. Indeed biting you would be a foolish thing to do; besides you would be doing me a great favor and for that I would be most grateful. I give you my word, I shall not bite.

Duck considered the wisdom of Snake's words and agreed that even a venomous snake would not profit from killing his very own vehicle across the river and thereby threaten his own survival. Finally, because Snake gave his word, duck put her instincts aside and consented.

Halfway across the river, while navigating the treacherous rapids, Duck felt an incredibly painful sting and realized that she had been bitten. Oh Snake! she called out sadly and weakly, for she was dying. Why have you done this dreadful thing? You gave your word and I kept my part of the bargain. Now your life and mine will be forfeit because of you!
Snake replied sadly, Yes I know. And I am sorry; But you see,

I am a snake.

It is in my nature as a snake to bite everything; even the very hands outstretched in brotherhood to help me.

So what is the moral of this story? What would you have done?

Was Duck a fool? Was Snake at fault?

You tell me.


  1. Thx for posting. I stumbled on your page by accident and enjoyed the story. Life is full of little surprises.

    Just a first thought after reading it:

    One lesson learned here might be that the duck should have followed his instincts. His instincts were tought through years and years of evolution that snakes are dangerous for ducks. And rightfully so. The snake talked different but acted predictable.

    A great book about following instincts is by Malcom Gladwell called "Blink". No spam intended, just a really good book that suits your story ;-)

    I am curious what your own thoughts are.

  2. Welkom,

    Great to see your reaction! Thanks for dropping by.
    I completely agree with you ofcourse. "Duck put his instincts aside".... this was actually the beginning of the end.
    Snake only acted snakey. Ofcourse this story is a metaphor for certain human relationships.

    How often should you give someone like snake a chance? Never? Once?
    And if they react like a snake who is to blame? Yourself? The other?

    This is a question I often hear from family members of drug addicts. The betrayal sometimes never ends.

    Blink has been on my wish list for a while now!

    I have the feeling I will be reading it shortly.


  3. Thx for sharing your pov. I see you like to look at those situations from all angles, letting all the pros and cons passing by. Testing it on life experiences. I like debating those "stories" very much myself. (preferably with a nice glass of wine, lol)

    Not so long ago i found this little "indian story" that also makes you think twice. I'll send it to you in return. I hope you like it:

    An old Grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, "Let me tell you a story.

    I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

    But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times." He continued, "It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

    But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger,for his anger will change nothing.

    Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

    The boy looked intently into his Grandfather's eyes and asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

    The Grandfather smiled and quietly said, "The one I feed."

    Regards, Michael

    p.s. Whenever you finished "blink" and feel like discussing it, i'll check your blog ;-)

  4. Sure Thing Michael.

    Thanks for this story. I am aware of this story but not in detail like this. I love the description of hate: ... "Like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die".... and the observation that hate does not even hurt ones' enemy.

    So Beautiful, so true. Such a waste of a life. even though I understand how pain can drive one to such extents. The important thing is leaving that hateful feeling as soon as possible.

    I intend to read Blink before the year runs out. Meanwhile feel free to stay in touch, share tips and information on blogs and such.